Sunday, March 13, 2016

Word Temples ~ a poem

The Chinese symbol for "poem" is made of two characters that mean "word" and "temple". Hence, a poem is a word temple.


Compassion is more
than a noun.
More than emotion,
a passing distress
for another's distress

That slyly escapes the ache
of insistent Bodhichitta ~
that great spirit of compassion
that yearns ever to cherish others.
Eluding, instead, through the loophole
of misdirected non-attachment.

But in the beginning,
compassion was a verb,
A bell clarifying, calling the heart to attend.
Or a gaze penetrating through to
a more pure land ~ the new Jerusalem
where sympathetic action is
the true measure of righteousness.

For faith without works
is dead faith, a lifeless statue
erected in the posture of faith,
but worshiped inside a temple
made of words.

Oh, let compassion fly!
Let compassion become
the winged horse,
carrying us forward, all of us,
to our mutual salvation. All of us

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Ashes Wednesday ~ a short drama

, mid-20s Gay male. Preppy.
Ron, mid-20s Gay male. 80s Clubby.
Dorothy, any adult age. Caregiver, unambiguously Lesbian.
1983, New Orleans
  • Black overcoat
  • Black umbrella
  • Black grease paint (to simulate a cancerous sarcoma)
  • Gray grease paint (to simulate an Ash Wednesday mark)
  • Oversized sport coat (with broad 80s shoulder pads and sleeves rolled up near elbows) to make Ron look gaunt.
  • Backpack
A note on the staging:
The events of this short play take place over several weeks. Each time characters exit the stage, time passes. Quick-changes (a different shirt, bandana, or jacket) help indicate the passage of time. Make the costuming as 80s as possible.

At lights up, 
2 young, Gay friends are walking
to a popular French Quarter bar.
Their clothes scream 1980s, 
preppie (Eliot) and clubby (Ron).

Ron, I swear to God, this year for Lent I am totally giving up dick.

Dick! Ha. Not much of a sacrifice. What’s it been, like 8 months, a year, since you’ve even seen dick? Held it? Smelled it? (*gasp*) Oh my God, Girl, did your hymen grow back?!

Shut up. Whatever is killing Gay guys has something to do with Gay sex.

Ok Eliot! Here we go again! President Reagan and Jerry Falwell are in cohoots to systematically kill off all the fags with some un-named, mystery plague. Right?

You’ve seen the flyers. We saw one just a couple nights ago, outside the Golden Lantern. "Gay Plague Infects New Orleans."

That flyer was handwritten! Hardly a missive from the Board of Health. Some amateur, home-made bullshit. I can still smell the mimeograph chemicals! I love mimeograph chemicals. Gets me high.

Fine. Don't take death seriously, Ron. While more and more of us drop like flies.

Oh Eliot, you dear, dear worry-wart, can we puh-lease lighten up the conversation and get to Bourbon Pub already? Hunky Alex is dancing tonight. I heard last week he danced totally naked on the bar and a Saudi Arabian prince ate his ass.

(Eliot exits singing)

(singing from Disney’s Cinderella) Some day, my prince will come...

That’s more like it. Give up dick for Lent! Sister please.

(Ron exits.)
(When they return, their outfits are different enough 
to denote that 2 weeks have passed.)

Jon Robichaux, Carl Espinoza, Alex Ransom...

Hunky Alex! What the fuck!?

I told you. Drop. Like. Flies.

Not two weeks back, we just saw Alex dancing at the Pub! How can that happen to someone so beautiful? So fast?

Freddie Guess is Alex's best friend.


Uh, right. Freddie told me that Alex lost all this weight all of a sudden, from non-stop diarrhea.

I have to sit down. (Collapses on floor.)

Then Alex collapsed at Freddie's studio. They rushed him to the ER at Charity Hospital. Some kind of pneumonia. Within 2 days...

Alex Ransom was a Greek God! Eliot, what the fuck is happening to us?

I don't know. Maybe there is some kind of right-wing conspiracy. Something definitely is killing Gay guys. Fast. So fast! Hey, didn't you and Alex Ransom...?

(Ron stands and exits without answering.
(Eliot follows.)
(Dorothy enters speaking.)

Oh, I’ve heard all the rumors. It’s a mutated form of cat leukemia. It comes from fucking monkeys. And my personal favorite:  It’s a government conspiracy to use biological weapons against the Gays first, then anyone else the right-wing deems “unsavory”.

(Eliot enters.
His clothes indicate time 
has passed, a few more weeks. 
He carries a backpack.)

But what is it?

The French named it AIDS. Acquired Immumo-deficiency Syndrome. Actually, they have a French word for that. SIDA or SILA? Something Frenchy. But in American it’s AIDS. Basically, that means the body’s natural immunity is deficient, weakened. Our defenses are down. A patient with AIDS can't fight off infection that a healthy person ordinarily could. A common cold can be a death sentence.

AIDS killed Rock Hudson?

Technically, Rock Hudson died of ARC. AIDS-related complications. AIDS suppressed his immunity, but Rock Hudson died of pneumocystis pneumonia.

Shit. How's he doing today?

(Ron enters slowly, walking with a cane. 

He wears an over-sized sport coat with sleeves
rolled up to his elbows, 
which makes him look gaunt. 

On his forehead is a large, black kaposi sarcoma ~ cancer.)

How’s my Mardi Gras costume coming together? I'm going as the Grim Reaper and Rock Hudson’s butt baby.

(to Ron) Oh yay. More gallows humor.
(to Eliot) My money’s on government conspiracy.

Don’t worry, Darling. Butt babies never live. And look (indicating his forehead), I already got my mark for Ash Wednesday. No need to go to Mass. Thank Gawd!

Hey Buddy. Glad to see you walking around.

Isn't AIDS the name of a diet candy? Caramel cubes laced with speed?

Yeah, they might want to reconsider their brand.

Either way, you're sure to lose weight.

Do you need anything from the store? Any errands?

Dorothy dearest, can you help me back to bed? I feel the need to lie down. Let me know if I have any visitors.

(Dorothy helps Ron exit, looking back apologetically 
to the stunned Eliot.

(Turning his back to the audience, Eliot opens the backpack. 
From inside, he puts on a black overcoat, 
rubs gray ash on his forehead, 
and then opens a black umbrella, ready to visit a grave.

When he turns back to the audience, 
Dorothy re-enters, 
protecting herself from the rain with a shawl. 

She wears warm, outdoor clothes 
(but not black. Her color palate is optimistic.) 

She slips her arm into Eliot's and they share the umbrella.)

Didn’t know you were Catholic.

Haven’t been to Mass since my Confirmation. But once a Catholic, always Catholic. It’s like a scar.

I hope you found comfort.

Yesterday I couldn’t do Mardi Gras at all. The craziness, the revelry. It’s been two weeks since Ron’s funeral, but I still just can’t. I closed my curtains and stayed in the dark. But this morning, I woke up antsy, restless, like I want to scream. I totally needed to be around other people. But like, serious-minded people, singing hymns about noble things.

I get it. Then after Mass, it made sense to visit him again?

It’s odd they call this a grave. Who buries ashes then puts a marker on the spot?

People need somewhere to grieve. A place to go and reflect. Since funeral homes in New Orleans refuse to accept “ AIDS bodies”, that leaves the cremation folks, the Neptune Society.

I don't understand why Ron shut me out, Dorothy! He wouldn't talk to me, look at me, acknowledge my presence! Why was he angry at me?

I'm sorry, Eliot. Yes, Ron was angry. At the world. At me sometimes. At you. But deep down, you know he was mad at death. Everyone confronts death in a different way.

He left me before he left me!

He was terrified.

At least you were with him…in the final moments. Thank you. Seems like all the dykes are taking care of sick Gay boys. You’re the only ones who will touch us.

Jill, my wife—Over there. We’re visiting another fella she was caring for—together we’ve been caregivers to 9 guys, so far.

His own bitch mother wouldn't even visit him in the hospital. At the funeral, I couldn't look at her, or I would scratch her face.

There's a lot of fear around AIDS, and a lot of mystery. I mean, we don't even know what causes it.

Sex is killing us! At least, the Gay kind. At Mass, I vowed to give up sex for Lent. Easiest decision of my life. I haven’t had any kind of sex in a year. Ron made fun of me, but I'm scared if I have sex, I'll die too! Death chases after folly!

It’s not folly to enjoy sex. It’s not folly to feel and express love. But protecting yourself, yeah, I think that’s a good idea right now. Until we know better what’s going on.

So many. So fast.

While our glorious President won't even say the word AIDS. 40,000 deaths, and Reagan sits back in his Oval Office ignoring our cries for help. Because Gays dying is convenient to his political agenda. Fuck Reagan! Fuck. Reagan.

I just want it to stop. I wish it all wasn't happening!

I know, Honey. I wish it wasn’t happening too. But now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand or pretend—along with the Leader of the Free World—that AIDS is not happening. If Reagan won't say the word AIDS, we have to scream it. Until we know how it’s caused. AIDS! How it spreads. AIDS!
(Eliot looks around, 
nervous other mourners will overhear.)

Until we cure it, and untold lives are saved. Until then, Eliot, silence equals death.

(The word "death" wounds Eliot. 

Dorothy takes the umbrella and protects them both.)

Lights fade to zero.

The End